Essential New Music: FFS’ “FFS”


Franz Ferdinand and Sparks want to pump you up

The idea of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks together in the studio is at once thrilling and unsettling. There’s a distinct possibility the Mael brothers’ musical funhouse mirror will distort Franz’s gloriously histrionic indie rock into unrecognizable shapes, diluting each entity’s gifts to an unacceptable degree. Thankfully, thrilling wins the day, as Alex Kapranos and his compatriots are equal to the task of blending their earnest aesthetic with the pinwheeling madness that has defined Sparks since the early ’70s.

The beauty of FFS is that Franz benefits from the Maels’ quirky brilliance, while the Sparks braintrust receives a high-voltage surge of indie-rock adrenaline. The sextet acknowledges the doubters on “Collaborations Don’t Work,” an on-the-nose mini-rock opera about their partnership, as Kapranos and Russell Mael trade tongue-in-cheek critiques (“I don’t get your navel-gazing/I don’t get your way of phrasing”), then follows with the piquant advice of “Piss Off.” Drawing on and expanding the strengths of each band—Franz Ferdinand’s bracing rock/pop anthemics, Sparks’ whimsical swing and swagger—FFS may be the blueprint for future musical cross-pollination.

—Brian Baker